Episode 4 is coming soon and we’d like to present you with the opportunity to once again decide the direction of the Armored Warfare Storyline Campaign and the lore itself. In our last article, we introduced you to the mechanics that would be used in Episode 4 and Episode 5.
With those in mind, it’s time to choose the next course of action.
But first, let us set up the scene. We find ourselves in the middle of the Mediterranean on a transport ship running dark, hiding from the enemies. All the lights onboard are turned off, the men and women of the Seahawks resting in their beds and hammocks, lulled into uneasy sleep by their fatigue, the hum of the ship’s engines and the never-ending whispering of the sea.
Two men and a woman are huddled together around a small table in the captain’s quarters. The cabin is small, but the flickering light of a small candle struggles to illuminate even that. They do not switch the lights on. They dare not.
The departure from Al Arish was a smooth one as departures from war-torn regions go. They had to ditch some of their equipment and the choice which vehicles to leave behind was tough, but the ship space was limited and food and water were more important to the exhausted Seahawks, finally looking forward to the much-deserved respite from the struggle. Blackwood’s plan worked flawlessly with Clayburn ships retreating as soon as the fake ID was submitted, but with discretion being the better part of valor, Blackwood decided that nightly blackouts would be a prudent precaution against anyone spotting the ship on high seas by accident.
A few of the Seahawks were old navy veterans and under their watchful eye, the crew managed not only to operate the vessel but to keep the right direction, west, towards the Gibraltar Strait and then to their ultimate goal, the United States of America.
A day into the journey, the Seahawks found out the true meaning of the ancient mariner wish of smooth sailing. The sea was anything but calm and even the giant steel behemoth of a ship had trouble navigating the waves, fighting its own battle against the rage of the elements.
Weathering the storm was an exhausting experience and the ship corridors, usually resonating with footsteps of the crew even in the dead of night, are now eerily quiet. The few Seahawks still awake are on the top deck, staring into the night, perhaps reminiscing about the old days, perhaps trying to forget everything they experienced recently. For many, Africa feels like a bad dream the cold sea spray woke them from, others still feel like they are in a dream they must wake up from at any moment into a world where the price for the next hot meal and coffee is a single trip to local cafeteria and loved ones are just a bus trip away.
Others yet are planning in hushed voices, as if shouting might give away their position to a tiger lurking outside of the cave. Thousands of years of evolution have not cured mankind’s fear of the dark and the predators hiding in it. Perhaps it will never go away, Blackwood thinks while listening to the arguments of his both lieutenants.
“Why are we even going to the USA? We don’t know what’s in there. With the collapse of the internet, civilian flight restrictions and corporate censorship, it could be a nuclear wasteland for all we know.”
Blackwood smiles ever so slightly, before answering with his eyes closed and his back reclined in his chair.
“To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths of all the western stars, until I die.”
They both look at him in confusion.
It is she who understands it, much to his surprise.
“Tennyson. Still, very good, Kathryn.”
Her smile suddenly matches his with only Seagrove left befuddled, looking at each of them in turn with a question written on his face and eyebrows raised.
“Poetry, Josh. Poetry.”
He frowns – as expected. Blackwood often wonders how it is possible that she, so coarse and blunt on the outside, understands these things more than him with all the corporate-paid education. But, he concludes every time, life is full of surprises. That’s what makes it worth living.
“At any rate, our destination is the last gift of Peter’s – amongst the files recovered from his computers was a location of a secret Clayburn facility in what used to be the great state of Texas. We don’t know what’s in there, but we know two things. First, it’s valuable – why else would you have such a distant facility offshore. Second, it’s not well-defended – its secrecy is its main protection and major military presence would certainly give it away.”
He watches the others nod and wonders how far he can go with his explanations before finally deciding to reveal a bit more.
“My money's on gold or diamonds. Credits are all well and good, but, as the economy crash of the 2020s has shown us, a few tons of precious metals around when the market crashes is a handy thing to have. Credits are all well and good, but they can only get you so far. Besides, diamonds can be transported with relative ease, as mister Clayburn is about to find out. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time for some payback.”
He watches both nod – how gullible can they be? They have no idea what’s waiting for them in the facility. But he does, oh yes, he does, and he will be the one to reap the rewards of this endeavor. Although he thinks, there might be a place for both of them in his future yet. Maybe they will turn out to be reasonable after all, in the end. Right now, Blackwood is content with simply listening.
“What do we do when we get to the USA? We can’t land just anywhere. It has to be somewhere south too, to make the trip to Texas short and to avoid the U.S. Navy.”
The candle’s glow never reaches his eyes – he likes it that way, watching them both from the shadows, studying their reactions to the problem at hand. They both lean towards each other to better see the old map prepared for just such an occasion on the table. It does not escape his notice that they are more comfortable with one another than they used to be with the months of hardships tempering their camaraderie, perhaps even into something more.
“Jacksonville, Florida. Ideal landing place, the Navy built a small base there before the world went crazy.”
“Aren’t you from Jacksonville, Kate?”
“Gainesville. Not far from there. I know the area, the whole town lived off the military back then.”
“Well fancy that, we’ll even get to meet your parents.”
A whole scale of emotions reflects on Grey’s face, from happiness to melancholy, as she struggles to reconcile both worlds she lives or used to live in – the one of her father’s embrace, of sun, school, apple pie and lazy Sunday afternoons spent working on cars, and the one of fire, smoke and war eternal. He can see it’s not going well.
“Yeah, they’d be really thrilled to have an Abrams parked on their lawn.”
“Perhaps they would – your father’s a mechanic, you said, and the Abrams is a fine piece of machinery. I bet he’d love to take one apart.”
He can see that Seagrove understands the conflict too, trying to downplay her fears. It’s not working, she’s desperately clinging to the barrier dividing both worlds in her mind, always afraid that her deeds will catch up to the sweet, pristine memories of her childhood, the last thing left of her old life, and ruin it like they did everything else.
“Fine, Jacksonville. How do we play it? We can land at the base, providing it’s empty – and then? Sneak out of the city and go west? I bet that if we do, no-one will bother us. It’s not like there’s any U.S. military presence out there, is it? The whole south belongs to mercs and corporations.” She laughs involuntarily.
“We’re still an armored unit, Josh. People tend to notice tanks rolling through their streets. We won’t run into regular U.S. forces, that much I know, but regular people won’t be happy to see us either. We might easily get into a firefight with whoever’s the law down there these days. Probably some corporation goons. I say, let’s treat the region as hostile – no, don’t give me that look, I am not suggesting sacking the city or anything. Let’s just take whatever we need from the base, fire back only if fired upon and bailout. Let’s make it clear we’re not there to stay.”
“We tried that once already, Kate. We ended with a lot of dead people, many of them being our own. It’s time to try something different. If we can’t sneak away, maybe we can make a deal with whoever is in charge of the city. We still have Credits, let’s purchase supplies, parade around, show that we’re friendly, stay for a neighborly chat and then leave with everyone waving us.”
“That will cost us time. Once Clayburn learns of our position – and he will – and realizes where we are going, he’ll send everything he has. Not just the Reavers, Josh, everything. Let’s not kid ourselves. We survived Al Arish with sheer luck and a few happy coincidences. If the Reavers persisted, they’d have wiped us out. Next time, we might not be so lucky. And don’t forget that, if given chance, Clayburn will buy everyone off, he could turn the whole city against us.”
“He’s not that fast, Kate. Right now he thinks we bailed out and that he’ll never hear from us again. He probably already occupied Al Arish too, so he got a functional military port out of the whole mess with the entire region cleansed of armed locals thanks to our efforts. All that with hardly any losses with the exception of his nephew, who was an idiot. Clayburn is pragmatic. With so many gains, he won’t follow us unless he feels threatened. Hell, we might even do what he thinks we will, land somewhere quiet and disperse. Wouldn’t you like to just forget all this and go home?”
That strikes a nerve. He can see she’s seriously considering what he just said, her eyes closed so that he does not notice the uncertainty and perhaps even the tears. But when she looks at him again, he sees nothing but determination. She won’t be swayed now, he suddenly realizes.
“We don’t have enough for over two hundred people to start a new life, Josh. We owe it to them. For their sweat, their blood and everything they’ve lost. And we owe Clayburn a payback. I won’t quit before we make him pay. And as for me,” she pauses, “why should I get to go home and others don’t. There will be a time for that later.”
That settles it then, both men think – each for a different reason. The candle flame, its color that of a setting sun they are heading towards, glimmers and dies. A single voice pierces the darkness – Blackwood’s.
“Here’s what we’re going to do...”
Today’s vote follows a bit different rules than the last one. Where the consequences of the last one were clearly specified, today’s vote’s exact consequences are not shown in advance – instead of deciding by a predetermined set of changes, use common sense and your knowledge of the Storyline Campaign lore to decide. Discuss it with your fellow commanders on the forums and see which choice fits you the most.
The consequences of each choice are logical and there are no inherently wrong choices – some of them will make the campaign end more difficult, but who knows, they might yield surprising rewards. Here are your options:
Option 1 – Stealth Landing: attempt to land in secrecy in the night and sneak out of Jacksonville as soon as possible, foregoing the acquisition of more fuel, food and other resources in favor of not getting into trouble with anyone and playing it as safe as possible. After all, whoever is in charge locally is unlikely to pursue the Seahawks without a good reason.
Option 2 – Laying a Trap: attempt to land in secrecy but instead of bailing out as soon as possible, lay down a trap for any pursuers. It’s risky because you do not know who and when is pursuing you, it might be a waste of the opportunity to get out safely without the advantages of interacting with Jacksonville residents – you’d have to rely on foraging.
Option 3 – Staying and Replenishing: announce your presence to the locals and stay around to replenish your supplies, trading some of your remaining resources for extra fuel, food and water. Plus, your forces could definitely use a rest, but do not interact with the locals more than necessary and definitely do not give them a reason to hate you. As an added bonus, several members of Seahawks who have roots in the area, like Kathryn Grey, can visit their families.
Option 4 – Recruitment Drive: announce your presence to the locals and attempt to replenish your supplies for a few days, but instead of resting, some of your men and women will try to convince some locals to join the Seahawks for any reasons they see fit to use – money, honor or anti-corporate sentiments. In a city that used to live off of the U.S. military presence, there are bound to be some veterans around, no?
Option 5 – Mercenary Work: replenish and recruit, but why not make a few bucks while you are at it? There are bound to be rich companies that could use an armored unit for a job or two to deal with local raiders or their competitors. This will, however, require you to stick around.
Option 6 – Occupy: try to occupy the city and take any resources you need by force. Of course, the locals will not take it kindly, but a fast, shock attack might succeed. You can then leave the city after a few days, it’s not like Clayburn will catch up that fast anyway and it’s possible he’ll contact local armed groups and convince them to attack you anyway, you might as well strike first.
Option 7 – Lightning Assault: instead of occupying any areas, storm the city, take whatever you can find in an hour or two and leave as soon as possible. Nobody likes looters, but this tactic does not give the locals the time to muster a counterattack and by the time they do, you’ll be long gone.
Those are your choices. Choose wisely commanders, Episode 4 will begin soon!